WANT TO BE A BETTER MANAGER? KEEP THESE 3 THINGS IN MIND

Being a boss babe leader and managing others is not easy.  I remember when I was first starting off as a manager, and I had to make my first hires.

I overthought everything.  

I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I wanted to get the most out of the people I hired. 

Here are three basic statements I kept in mind when reflecting on my ability to engage and mobilize anyone working with me.  

They are useful to think about whether you manage one intern or twenty individuals.


1. Understand the goals and aspirations of each member of your team.

I used to think that I had to approach each member of my team the same.  I would provide them the same information and respond to them in similar ways, expecting the same output from each. It did not get me very far.  

Each person needs to be treated as an individual. Understanding how each member of your team ticks will help you get the most out of them.

If you know how to acknowledge and recognize each member, you will know how best to motivate and communicate with them.  

With just a bit of work and understanding, you can get a lot more out of a team member, because you will be speaking their language. No two people are motivated the same way, so you cannot always expect the same result from different individuals.

If you are an employee…

  • Tell your manager what motivates you.
  • Tell them what you want to get out of your experience working with them and how you prefer to be approached.
  • If you are confused about your role or objectives, ask or show them what you think they should be.

They might not always listen, but you can at least demonstrate how self-aware you are. Some managers will appreciate it.

Those who don’t probably shouldn’t be managers.

2. Each member of your team knows what you expect, and where they are in terms of performance

I was notorious and continued to have issues with communicating what I want from others.  Even when we think we have done an excellent job, we usually have not.

Making sure each member of your team understands their place (even if it changes monthly) is key to making sure you are getting the most out of them.  

They should be getting feedback from you regularly, and you should periodically inquire about making sure they are on the right track.

If they are not, its either you haven’t done an excellent job being explicit or the role does not suit them.

If you are an employee and your company has a formal performance review process, nothing your manager says during the performance review process should come as a surprise.

  • Ask for regular feedback and make sure you get clarity if you are confused.
  • Send your manager an email with what you discussed, even if its feedback, to make sure you both are on the same page.

3. You actively act on advice and feedback on how you come across to your team, and how you can be a more motivating leader

No one is perfect but spending a few hours a week on seeking and receiving feedback can make you a more effective leader.  

You can ask for input in various ways: informally at group meetings or formally through surveys. Take some time to read about different approaches to leadership and reflect on who you admire as a manager.

Write down the traits and feedback you want to embody and try them out. Want to check how you are doing? Continue to ask for feedback over time.

If you are an employee…

  • Ask your manager if you can give them constructive feedback.  
  • Think about what you can learn from your manager and make the best of the situation.
  • If there is something that doesn’t sit well with you, keep it in mind for when you have a chance to manage others.

How can you use these statements to make a change or move forward?

With each element, try to rate yourself.  I would suggest on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 meaning disagree strongly and 10, strongly agree.

Ask your teammates for feedback to help you decide where you stand.

For the statements you rate less than 5, you might want to spend some time thinking through how to bridge the gap.  You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Where do you want to be?
  • What is the first thing you can do to make progress in that particular element?

That one small step you take can help you get closer to the leader you want to be and get even more out of your team.


This month of July, we’re telling stories about boss ladies breaking boundaries, and how you also can hit your #BossLadyGoals. Got a boss lady story to share with us? Click here.

Ms. Ebba Kalondo: Being a black African woman in leadership is not for the faint-hearted

Ms. Ebba Kalondo is the spokesperson in the Chairperson’s office of the African Union Commission. Prior to that, she has held several senior positions in strategic and Risk Communications at the World Health Organization, Foundation Hirondelle, France24, and Reuters.

In this interview, Ms. Ebba talks about her work as a leader in the African Union Commission.


Be the exception to the rule. Go to that meeting that no one invites you to, sit there like you belong and speak up - @EbbaKalondo Click To Tweet

 What was your ambition growing up?

Growing up I read a lot and questioned everything around me. I was always inquisitive and analyzing the information presented to me with a desire to learn more. So upon reflection, I must say that my ambition was always to learn more.

Would you say your family environment/childhood shaped the person you are today?

My parents’ relationship which each other forged my personality. They were and remain a strong united front.

They had five daughters and a son. We were always allowed to ask questions and encouraged to read. My mother was soft-spoken but strong. She was a disciplinarian and my father taught us the importance of family.

Did you ever think you would end up in international affairs, or at the AU specifically?

Yes, I worked in international news and in development with a strong focus on security and the humanitarian industry.

With my desire to constantly learn, I grew a desire to ignore the headline and discover the more nuanced reality behind the story.

What was your path to working at the AU? What factors helped you along the way?

It is the people I met on this path that I walked and the rich experiences that brought me to where I am. I always knew that I wanted to be of service to my continent and I am very fortunate that I have been able to do so.

The AU is the platform to do this, and I will always be grateful for the call to be of service.

Can you compare the AU with other organizations you have worked with?

The AU is a microcosm of the state of its evolving Union – a 55-member Union of nations with different governance systems, varying levels of socio-economic development on a continent that is home to a third of humanity but that is still fighting for its rightful place in the world as a primary actor of its own development and indeed that of the world.

Born of a unique history of colonialism not seen in any other continental grouping in contemporary history, the African Union is also the largest intergovernmental in the world.

There is no other organization quite like it, that I know of.

The AU is currently undergoing a process of institutional and financial reform. Why is the reform of the AU essential?

Our continuing existence in the new world we live and engage with depends on making our Organization more fit for purpose to better serve the needs and aspirations of the people of the Continent.

This is not a choice, this is a stark existential reality and an obligation to the founding fathers of our Union.

Are the reform’s youth and women targets attainable by 2025? (35% of AU staff as a youth and 50% as women).

Why should they not be? Self-belief and the ambition we have set out for ourselves is key.

What do you say to critics of the AU who point to its bureaucracy and who doubt its capacity to change?

The AU Commission is a bureaucracy like other multilateral intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union Commission. And like all institutional bureaucracies, it is a slow-moving ship.

It is not as agile as say a start-up. This is not unique to the AUC. What is unique is that unlike the UN and the EU, the AUC has started to implement its reform agenda.

Who influenced you the most in your professional life?

Not one person in particular. There have been so many people who have, through their experiences, mentored and supported my journey.

Have you ever received a painful rejection in your career? How did you handle it?

Not rejection per se, but definitely some occasions where I could and should have acted differently. The first thing is taking responsibility and then fixing it and learning to do better.

In case of a rejection, the first step is taking responsibility and then fixing it and learning to do better - @EbbaKalondo Click To Tweet

When have you felt most out of your comfort zone?

On the contrary, I actively avoid comfort zones, I feel most comfortable pushing myself outside of comfort zones. Growth has always been more important to me than comfort has.

Having worked in war zones where putting oneself in harm’s way is part of the job, I’ve learned that security comes from within.

What have you learned in your career about women in leadership? Any advice for women who aspire to leadership positions?

Being a woman in leadership is tough, but being a black African woman in leadership is not for the fainthearted.

Be the exception to the rule. Go to that meeting that no one invites you to, sit there like you belong and speak up. Your opinion matters. Even if there are other women there, and none are speaking up, be the one that does.

Stay informed about everything around and never take the bait of being treated as the “affirmative action” or “gender sensitive” presence. Your results will not be judged on your gender.

You got the job, not your gender, so do it. Never fear ridicule. Ever.

I've learned that security comes from within - @EbbaKalondo Click To Tweet

Have you undertaken any measures to support women in the professional workplace?

There is nothing I can teach, but I can share my experiences truthfully and what has worked for me, and what has not. I find that we support each other not so much by saying or doing, but by really being there for each other, making the time to listen without judgment and simply accompanying each other on our journeys.

That I do by instinct, not by obligation. Empowered women should empower women, through service and support. Always and without exception.

What’s your advice for fresh graduates looking to join the AU?

Don’t fear to start at the bottom, in fact, it is always instructive to see how those who think they have power treat those they think don’t have power.

Study by doing. Don’t fear failure. We are who we are despite it. And again, never fear ridicule. Those who laugh at you and make fun of you while you are learning will learn from your courage.

Even if they will never acknowledge it. And the job has nothing to do with your feelings. Do the job. Keep your feelings.

What do you struggle with, in the work environment?

I strongly believe that struggle is inevitable, and contrary to popular belief, I believe we hone our survival instincts through struggle. But the struggle to maintain a life-work balance is real, and it never gets easier.

What are some of the most challenging things in your current role?

That’s a tough one. But in a world where the everyday person doesn’t trust politics and politicians in general, it is important to stay honest and credible despite the challenges. And to be honest, it is the challenges that most attract me. No two days are the same.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment, both personal and professional?

My biggest personal accomplishments are my children. They have taught and continue to teach me some of my most important life lessons.

Professionally, I’m proud of where I am but the road ahead remains long and I’m still working at it.

Do you have any regrets?

Being far away from my family is not easy.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other career paths would you have taken?

I would have become a psychiatrist.

What is your dream destination?

As a child, I was fascinated by Genghis Khan, so Mongolia remains a mythical place for me. Samarkand, Timbuktu, Kano, and Isfahan are also cities that I dream of visiting.

What are you currently reading? What genre of books do you read?

I’m reading a few books simultaneously:

  • Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Extremes
  • Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred

In French, I’m alternating between a book on mindfulness by Christophe Andre – a French psychiatrist, Alexandre Jollien – a Swiss philosopher, and Matthieu Ricard – a Buddhist monk, called ‘Trois amis en quete de sagesse”.

I just finished Behave by Robert Sapolsky and Aisha La Bienaimee du Prophete by Genevieve Chauvel.

What’s something your friends and family might not know about you?

I’m an open book to those who know me, so I would like to think that they know everything necessary to know. Those that don’t know me, probably don’t need to.

How do you stay motivated?

I am motivated by my desire to keep on learning, there is so much I don’t know. And working at the African Union, having a front row seat in the process of working towards the Africa we want, and it is within our reach, is enough motivation every day.

I am also motivated by my family.

What do you do in your down time?

I read. I read and reread. I buy and rebuy books.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?

I frankly don’t know, but what is certain is that challenges will remain. The important thing is to keep on going and that no one can make you feel illegitimate unless you allow it.

So it is our responsibility to focus on the solutions together, and work towards our goals and achieving our ambitions.


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